NAFTA on steroids. The biggest trade deal you’ve never heard of. Flags of Convenience. If these labels sound familiar, you’ve been paying attention: U.S. aviation workers are about to take a one-two punch -- unless we take action now.
AFA and CWA have been working with a broad coalition of labor, human rights, environmental, civil rights and other organizations to stop Trade Promotion Authority (TPA or ‘fast track’ authority) for the TransPacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and any other future trade deal, and we’re making headway. Simultaneously, our jobs are threatened by an application to the Department of Transportation by Norwegian Air International (NAI) that would undermine our U.S. aviation industry and our airline jobs.
The TPP is a massive secret trade deal that, if passed by Congress, will give more power to corporations, eliminate more U.S. jobs, undermine U.S. industries, and weaken regulations. And, similar to provisions granted to previous administrations, the Obama administration is seeking fast track authority on the deal. Fast Track would force Congress to take an up or down vote on the whole 1,000-page deal, without the ability to amend a word of it.
Secret negotiations are also taking place for TTIP -- a “free trade agreement” with the European Union (EU). The decisions our government makes in the TTIP talks could impact the future of U.S. airline passenger service, aviation jobs, and the competitive positioning of our nation’s air carriers. The deal paves the way for as-yet unspecified changes to our current aviation traffic rights agreement with the EU, likely weakening foreign ownership and control laws.
While there can be many benefits to international trade treaties, the fact that these massive deals have been negotiated in secrecy by a team of people who exclusively represent corporate interests, and that the White House is seeking to fast track the deals through Congress without allowing members the ability to fully understand their contents before forcing an all-or-nothing vote, raises serious concerns. (The actual text of TPP won’t be available until five years after it is approved, so Congress will not see the exact language they are voting on.)
As if secret trade deals weren’t enough, another deal that threatens the integrity of U.S. jobs and the economy is in the making -- and this one specifically targets aviation jobs.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering an application by Norwegian Air International (NAI) for a foreign air carrier permit and exemption authority to operate services from Europe to points in the U.S. NAI’s business plan is based on shipping’s Flags of Convenience (FOC) model, crafted to circumvent worker protections by evading international labor laws, creating unfair and devastating competition with U.S. carriers. DOT approval of the application would give NAI an enormous economic advantage over U.S. airlines in competing for long‐haul international commercial business, and undermining the U.S. airline industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports.
“AFA remains firmly opposed to any business model that targets the employment security of Flight Attendants and aviation workers. AFA has been working closely with fellow crewmembers to call attention to NAI’s scheme to contract out pilot and cabin crew jobs and we continue to call upon DOT Secretary Foxx to carefully review NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit,” said AFA International President Veda Shook.
“AFA remains a strong advocate for global labor standards. For decades, we have worked to protect aviation careers while encouraging growth and opportunity. We are thankful to our colleagues at the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) who recognize that strong international labor standards are the backbone of a healthy and robust aviation system,” added Shook.
The ITF recently adopted AFA’s resolution calling for a full investigation of NAI labor standards and business practices. It calls upon the DOT to seek additional information about NAI’s labor plans in order to protect airline labor from the adverse consequences of circumventing international labor law. ITF began advocating for maritime workers on a global scale when the FOC model was first introduced a half century ago.
“For 50 years the ITF, through its affiliated seafarers' and dockers' unions, has been waging a vigorous campaign against shipowners who abandon the flag of their own country in search of the cheapest possible crews and the lowest possible training and safety standards for their ships,” states the ITF.
Today, ITF organizes and negotiates on behalf of FOC maritime crews, since FOC ships have no real nationality, and are beyond the reach of any single national seafarers' trade union. In the no-man’s land of the global economy, where World Trade Organization (WTO) functions as a world court to defend corporate rights; where human, labor, environmental and consumer rights are non-existent, the ITF is a David fighting a Goliath. Through labor solidarity and with the support of our progressive allies, workers laboring under Flags of Convenience have been able to secure nominal protections, but without the protections of national labor laws, and in the absence of enforceable international law, the challenge is daunting.
Take Action – Fight Back
Now, before the U.S. DOT opens the floodgates to this FOC business model in aviation, we must ask ourselves, is this the model we want? If your answer is ‘no’, sign the petition, talk about the issue with your flying partners, stay informed and spread the word!
Twitter: Tell the #Obama Administration #denyNAI's dangerous application to fly in the US & defend US airlines and US #jobs
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